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Johnny V is Canadian bluesman and an avid hot pepper addict.  The following is his research paper on this subject. To find out more about Johnny, you can visit his page at this site.
Visit the homepage:  http://www.spots.ab.ca/~jam

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Please understand that this paper has been copied in without any editorial or typographical changes. The latin names have not been italicised mainly because it was going to take too long, so please bear with us. :-}

Article reference index: Chili Facts | Cooling the heat | Background | Vit. C | Botany of peppers |  Chemical Structure | Hot List | Hot 26 |
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I'm A Chili-head - Part 1

By Johnny V

The first time I bit into a chile pepper, I was 12 years old. My friend Jules Trudeau and I had a bet that I couldn't eat a pickled banana pepper, ha ha ha, I happily took his two dollars. The sensations I got after eating those peppers was great. I felt the trickling of sweat running down the back of my neck and forehead, a tingling sensation all over my scalp (little did I know that my endorphins had kicked in), an almost immediate clearing of my sinus. I was hooked. I like hot, piquant or zesty foods. The hotter, the better!!!

 Since that first day, I have been on a quest to find and conquer the hottest peppers known to us bi-peds with opposable thumbs. I have learned many things about chili peppers. For instance do you know who Wilbur Scoville was and what the Scoville Scale or the Scoville Organoleptic Test is? I have tasted most of the many species of chilies. You might want to review some botanical terminology first because I have a little botany lesson to help you learn more about chilies. Do you know what capsaicinoids are and what their chemical structure is? Did you know there are at least 5 kinds of capsaicin contained in a pepper, the HPLC test measures these all at once. With this discovery my poor little chilihead was sent reeling as I was unable to think with clarity or act with understanding and intelligence.

Are all the capsaicinoids equally pungent? Are their structures the same? What does this HPLC test tell about the "degree of warmth or hotness" of a chili when you measure all the capsaicins at once? To distinguish the flavor of a chili by eating a small quantity for the first time, or experience the distinctive, intangible quality and aura, that is so worth mentioning and measuring separately? Is it fraught with meaning or more significant to test a chili in a consolidated mass? Well that's it for this page, I sure had fun building it.

Some Factoids about Chili Peppers
It is thought that Paraguay and Boliva in South America now occupy the area where chilies originated from.

            &nb sp;            &nbs p;      The Buzz!!!!!

After eating piquant zesty or hot food, my nerve endings sense pain and signals are immediately transmitted to my brain which apprehends and interposes endorphins (Any of a group of peptide hormones that bind to opiate receptors and are found mainly in the brain) .

Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain, affect emotions and create a temporary feeling of euphoria. Eating hot, piquant or zesty food is addicting, once you've felt the numbing buzz the endorphins create, you're hooked. I believe this is why most people who love chilies keep searching for "The Buzz". The first endorphin rush is free ;-)
All chili peppers originated in the New World, so it's probably safe to speculate that Christopher Columbus had his mouth burned by chilies in 1492. ;-)

Birds appear to be the reason wild peppers were spread through South and North America as they seem to be unaffected by the capsaicin found in chilies.

How to Cool the Heat

The intrinsic matter that makes chilies hot is called capsaicin. Here are some methods I have found that work when I've eaten one that has taken my face off. Try plain steamed rice or plain white bread, they soak up the oils and also help your digestive system cope. Some say drinking milk, eating ice cream or yogurt, will do it too, claiming that they are effective at breaking down the oils, I have had no success with these methods.
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Pop, beer and water are definitely out, they only make the fire hotter by spreading the oils around. A good thing to remember when handling or preparing chilies is, DON'T TOUCH ANY PART OF YOUR FACE WITH YOUR HANDS OR ANY OTHER PART OF YOUR EPIDERMIS FOR THAT MATTER. You only need to do this once. ;-)


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If You Really Need to Know!!!
The name Capsicum comes from the Greek kapto, which means "to bite". All peppers are classed as genus Capsicum including the under-achievers paprika and bell peppers (They both failed miserably at capsaicinoids 101). They are all members of the plant family known as Solanaceae which includes tomatoes and eggplants.

The wild varieties of genus Capsicum range in pungency from mediocre to the utmost degree of heat, this is due to a group of substances called capsaicinoids (Capsaicin, Dihydrocapsaicin, Nordihydrocapsaicin, Homocapsaicin and Homodihydrocapsaicin) These capsaicinoids are unique compared to other pungent substances such as black pepper (piperine), ginger (gingerol), and mustard oil (zingerone and allyl isothiocyanate). The bodies reaction to repeated exposure to capsaicinoids is not any different than any other substance abuse, you build up a tolerance
and become less sensitive to the pain, therefore requiring more capsaicinoids to get the endorfins pumping at a pace you have become accustomed to. Which is why real chiliheads are always seeking out hotter chilies in the already piquant and zesty foods they consume. Yea!!!

A chili pepper is like a fine wine. The pungent fresh or dried fruit of any of the several cultivated varieties of capsicum have their own distinctive taste and level of Scoville Unit.
For example the C. chinense chilies (Orange Habanero AKA Manaza or the Red Savina Habanero AKA Scotch Bonnet) have an unusual citrus flavor, but are mega hot (100,000 to 500,000 S.U.) and have what is known as "The Slow Burn". You don't really find out how hot they really are until it's too late.

There is heated mediation going on in the backrooms of the chilihead over the fact that of the 26 classified species of peppers, only five are domesticated. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 21 WILD ONES!!!!!!!!

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We're number two and happy about it

More and more I notice chilies showing up in cuisines found in North America, the Caribbean, Asia, India, Africa, Europe, as well as Mexico and South America. Chilies are the second most frequently used seasoning and condiment in the world today, the first being salt.
How I get my Vitamin C

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 5000 international units and 60 milligrams of vitamin A. Chilies eaten fresh are one of the best sources of vitamin C, they have twice the normal amount found in most citrus fruits, and when chilies are dried their vitamin A content increases about 100 times. {Note* Chilies lose most of their vitamin C content when dried). Once a day I usually make and eat a little dish I call "The Volcano's Vitamix". It is Basmati rice with about four cloves of fresh Garlic (rotor rooter for your blood canals) and one half of a large Spanish onion, two teaspoons of chili powder (vitamin A) about an ounce of fresh chilies
(vitamin C) some stir fried mixed veggies (cooked about 1-3 minutes) and a small boned and skinned piece of chicken breast (chopped). I wouldn't recommend an ounce of Red Savinas unless you're as crazy as me. :-)

It is promulgated by some that chili peppers were at one time traded as currency among some of the North and South American Indian tribes. These Indians also believed fastening Ristras (dried chilies threaded together to form a string of chilies) to their canoes, it would ward off all evils that lurked in the water. Some beliefs, practices, or rites irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or pure superstition, say ristras ward off all evils (Right, and the Garlic Lei I just made will keep the Vampires away too.) Today ristras are commonly seen hanging in households and are usually a symbol of welcome.
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Continued....in Peppers 2

This page was updated December 29/99 


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